An NHS trust has decided to press ahead with controversial plans to set up an outsourcing company despite a strike by hundreds of workers in protest at the move.
The Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh Foundation Trust said its board of directors had decided to move forward in creating WWL Solutions, a wholly-owned subsidiary company.
Members of Unite went on strike on Wednesday while Unison and Unite members will walk out for five days from Thursday.
Workers including porters, cleaners, catering staff, electricians and plumbers employed at Wrightington Hospital, Wigan's Royal Albert Edward Infirmary (pictured) and Leigh Infirmary are involved in the action.
Estates and facilities (E&F) and procurement staff will transfer to the new company on August 1.
The trust said in a statement: "As always, patient safety is our number one priority and this decision protects both the trust's financial stability and jobs. WWL Solutions will be owned entirely by the trust and we believe this is the best way to ensure we can continue to deliver high quality services.
"WWL Solutions staff will continue to be part of the WWL family, but creating this wholly-owned company places us on a level playing field with the private sector.
"This means that WWL Solutions can grow by securing new business and providing more opportunities for our E&F and procurement staff. It will also generate significant savings for the trust, without affecting the pay, pension or terms and conditions for any of the staff who transfer.
"The trust must save £14.5 million this year. If the planned savings are not generated from WWL Solutions, they would have to have been found in other ways.
"Most importantly, jobs will be protected by creating WWL Solutions, meaning that the trust can continue to provide the highest quality support services that we are all so proud of."
Unite regional officer Keith Hutson, said: "The trust may think that this decision marks the end of the road but they are wrong. This is only the beginning. The unions will fight this decision and they will win.
"This is an undemocratic decision. The trust has failed to consult with its governors and other groups. As a result Unite is considering whether to take legal action against this entirely unwarranted decision."
Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said: "Despite being given every opportunity to step back from the precipice, the trust has recklessly decided to go ahead with an ill-advised plan that's bad for patients, staff and services.
"As the NHS approaches its 70th birthday, the people served by Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh Trust deserve so much better.
"Staff will continue to fight against this foolhardy plan, as they reluctantly take their third round of strike action."
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